Petition to fully legalise cannabis in the UK reaches 100,000 signatures

s p l i f f # s i x t y t h r e e

A recent online petition that aims to “make the production, sale and use of cannabis legal” has received well over 100,000 signatures, meaning that the topic must be debated in Parliament. Under current rules, if a petition reaches 10,000 signatures, there will be a “response” from government. If a petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the petition will be “considered for debate in Parliament”. According to the government website “petitions which reach 100,000 signatures are almost always debated,” which comes as positive news for all those who recognise the failure of drug prohibition and believe that the government has no right to be telling you what you can and can’t be putting in your own body.

James Richard Owen, the creator of the petition, argues that “Legalising cannabis could bring in £900m in taxes every year, save £400m on policing cannabis and create over 10,000 new jobs.” In addition, he writes that cannabis is “a substance that is safer than alcohol, and has many uses.” He finishes by pointing out that “[cannabis] is believed to have been used by humans for over 4000 years, being made illegal in the UK in 1925.”

The debate regarding legality of cannabis had already recently been in the news, after Durham Police Commissioner Ron Hogg claimed that they “are not prioritising people who have a small number of cannabis plants for their own use.” Now, after the petition has at time of writing, over 150,000 signatures; the debate over criminalisation of cannabis will only intensify, especially when it reaches Parliament.

One wish that those who signed the petition will have, is for our MP’s to treat the issue seriously. Regrettably, it is possible that the politicians could choose to ignore the evidence, and laugh of the topic as illegitimate, as Barack Obama has done in the past. However, with more and more evidence that undermines the war on drugs surfacing, prohibition advocates appear completely out of touch with public attitude towards the drug.

In Defence of Uber

Taxi service Uber is coming under increasing pressure and resistance from politicians, taxi companies and the media. Critics complain that the company is ‘unsafe’, ‘unfair’ and ‘unregulated’. However, the most likely reason why there is resistance to Uber, is because Uber is providing a better service than the cab companies, and at lower prices. The reason why Uber came to be in the first place was because there was a demand for something new. For too long, taxi companies were too expensive and provided a mediocre service as a consequence of the lack of competition and mountains of regulation. When Uber came along, it was fresh and ideal for the modern world. It had inventive and resourceful features, such as the use of the smartphones GPS system, along with extremely short waiting times, that caught the imagination of the consumer, allowing the company to gain worldwide success. With the push of a button, an Uber taxi can arrive at your location within a couple of minutes. In response to the criticisms leveled at Uber, founder Travis Kalanick explained: “When new technology comes into an industry that has pretty much been the same for fifty or sixty years, you are going to come up against resistance, usually from incumbents that are in that industry.”

Public figures such as Hilary Clinton and Russell Brand, have come out in opposition to Uber. What is most confusing about the critics on the left, is that we often hear them complaining about the problems with monopolies; yet at the same time, they will advocate the restriction of new companies from entering the market. Government interventions in the form of regulations and licencing have the effect of increasing prices and barriers to entry, which is why cab companies have been able to get away with high prices and poor service for so long.

In addition, the criticism that Uber is unregulated is true in the case of government regulations, however it is untrue to claim that Uber doesn’t have any regulations at all. The regulation comes from the market. If the service is good and customers are satisfied then the company will prevail. On the other hand, if it does not, Uber will lose business. That is what the free market is all about. The success or failure of a company depends upon the consumer.

I do have sympathy for the taxi companies that are losing out, and the drivers who are losing their jobs however. There is some truth in the claim that competition is ‘unfair’, but people are looking at it the wrong way. In order for these cab companies to survive, the playing field ought to be leveled. However it would be a mistake to do so by increasing regulations on Uber and essentially outlawing competition. On the contrary government regulations need to be relaxed in order for the cabs to have a fighting chance. With cab companies free from the excessive regulations of government, they will be free to legitimately compete with Uber in the free market. When that happens it is we, the consumer that will benefit the most.

Why People Don’t Vote

general-election

The General election is fast approaching, which means that it’s time for people to decide who to vote for. It is generally accepted that voting is an important part of a functioning democracy, nevertheless there are many people who don’t partake in voting – just 65% turned out to vote in 2010. Why is this the case? There are many different reasons, one is simply because people are badly informed – they can’t name candidates that are running, they are unaware of the massive effects that government policy has on their lives, and they are generally apathetic towards politics.

Barack Obama recently proposed the idea of compulsory voting in order to fix this problem, however not only does this violate freedom of speech (freedom of speech includes the freedom to not speak), but also the idea that you can create a well-informed public by simply forcing them to vote is absurd. Surely it should be the job of politicians to rouse people from their apathy by giving them something to vote for, by having strong set of principles and by addressing the major issues that people are going to agree with. Forcing people to vote sounds like something that would occur in North Korea (which it actually does) or the Soviet Union, not in the ‘free world’.

So, why do people care so little about politics? Well, it could be argued that it is completely rational to be ignorant of politics. The fact is, it takes a lot of time to become well-informed. You have to spend time following the news either by reading a newspaper, reading online or watching the news, or ideally all of these things. The time spent following politics could be spent doing other thing that are more productive, joyful and important to your own personal life, such as family and career. That is not to say that becoming politically aware is a bad thing, however some people simply have more important things to worry about. They see politics as an annoying hindrance rather than something that is beneficial. Fundamentally there is an incentive problem with voting. The chance that your vote will change the outcome of an election is practically zero, and the political process has done little more than leave people frustrated.

But it’s not just badly informed people who don’t vote. There are many well-informed people who choose not to vote. They recognise that government performance has simply not improved by voting in different parties. Whether it has been the Labour party or the Conservative party in power, the problems are still the same. The warfare-welfare state continues to grow and our civil liberties are being eroded. Politicians remain untrustworthy, with a consistently bad record of lying, false promises and manipulation. Nick Clegg lied about tuition fees. The Labour party initiated NHS privatisation and expanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Public spending increased in both Margaret Thatcher’s and David Cameron’s Conservative governments. What we constantly see is a pattern of the opposite outcomes of what each were elected to do.

So there are many valid and rational reasons why people don’t vote. That is not to say voting is completely useless. If you see a candidate that you genuinely agree with, vote for them. However don’t be surprised when they change their policies if they come to power. Though, it’s not all bad; at the moment UK politics is becoming a multi-party system, rather than a two-party system. This could potentially be good for democracy, with more options of who to vote for, maybe we will see an increase in voter turnout in this year’s election.